Monday, 21 September 2015

The red ghost

As the days were getting shorter, little Tommy noticed that it was starting to get dark outside before his daddy came home from work. He sat at the kitchen window of their flat, looking down at the streets, waiting for his daddy.
It was a particularly rainy day, and his mummy was stirring the sauce for the chili sin carne. As their little kitchen didn’t feature an extraction fan, the windows were steamed up and the whole flat smelled of feel-good food.
Little Tommy had used his sleeve to wipe a part of the window and had his nose pressed against the surface. His mummy was humming a pop song, when Tommy suddenly turned round to her, his eyes wide with shock.
“What is it?” Tommy’s mummy asked.
“ I saw a ghost,” little Tommy whispered. “A Red Ghost.”
His mummy put her spoon down and walked over to the window. “Where is it?”
“He’s gone,” little Tommy said, “he was on a bicycle.”
“Well, if he’s gone, we don’t need to worry about him, do we?” his mummy said. She picked some rosemary, which was growing in a terracotta pot in the windowsill, and returned to the cooker.

As Tommy’s father was waiting for the lift to get up to the third floor, he took off his red poncho. In the lift, he rolled up the poncho and put it in a bag.
“Daddy, daddy,” little Tommy ran up to his daddy and hugged his legs. “Did you see the ghost too?”
“A ghost?” his daddy lifted an eyebrow and kissed his wife
“Tommy saw a red ghost on a bicycle, just before you arrived.”
“Why are you home so late, daddy? Was the ghost chasing you? Are you okay?”
The daddy smiled, lifted Tommy on his lap and confessed that yes, he had seen the red ghost. And yes, the ghost had been chasing him, but little Tommy needn’t worry, as daddy was so much faster the ghost would never be able to catch him.

As it was autumn, the next day was equally rainy. Tommy had opened the window and was leaning out so that he would be able to spot his daddy sooner.
“Mummy, mummy, come quickly,” he begged.
His mummy rushed over. “What is it, darling?”
“It’s the red ghost again,” Tommy said, pointing at his daddy’s poncho. “And I don’t see daddy anywhere!”
Relieved, his mummy started laughing. “Don’t worry, silly,” she said, “you know your daddy is quicker than the ghost! He’ll be here any minute, I promise.”

Tommy couldn’t understand why his parents weren’t worried about the imminent threat of the red ghost. When it rained yet again a third day, Tommy positioned himself at the window even before his mummy started cooking. Tommy was waiting and waiting, and feared that the ghost had caught up with his daddy. When he spotted the red ghost, he leaned out of the window even further, and recognized his daddy’s bicycle – but there was no sign of daddy. Little Tommy decided there was no time to call for his mummy. He reached for the terracotta pot with the rosemary plant and dashed it, with all his might, at the red ghost down below.

The rosemary hit the ghost right on the head.
But Tommy’s daddy never came home again.

Friday, 13 March 2015

A dialogue to avoid

My colleague bursts into the room with the news that another colleague will have her 21st birthday soon. "She's so young!"
I lean back in my chair and think of when I was that age. "Incredible, isn't it, that we used to feel stressed already back then."
That didn't sound quite right. My colleague doesn't respond. Savouring a sip of earl grey, I have another go at forming an appropriate response.
"Back when I was 21, I still believed I would start my own business as a philosopher."
"And look at you know!"
"I would've been so sad to see I had turned out as a marketeer, all corporate and what not! I would've wondered where it had all gone wrong."
We laugh a little as we turn to our screens. But why is that funny? Shouldn't it sadden me? With a big gulp, I finish my tea. No, I don't have to be embarrassed about the choices I made. I would love to have a full-blown argument with my former self. And knowing her, she probably would too.
But I can't quite shake the sneaking suspicion that, if I let her, she would change my mind. Because really, what insights and learnings have I reached in nine years, that could possibly change her mind?

Tuesday, 21 October 2014

Amsterdam Downpour

A typically dreary morning in Amsterdam. Builders are looking for shelter under their scaffolding as Debbie cycles past, looking like she’s just taken part in a wet t-shirt contest.
Builders: Hallo!
Debbie (cheerful): Morning!
Builder: Rain’s looking good…

Saturday, 30 August 2014

Train your brain on the beach

Resting your brain is the key to regaining your mental power. If you want to optimise the effect of your sun holidays and return to school, university or work even more intelligent, you can combine relaxing on the beach with some of these simple and fun exercises.
1.       Listen to the locals. Learning a new language is the most well-known method of increasing one’s brain power. Of course you don’t have to be able to speak Spanish or Turkish after a week on the beach. Even trying to pick up a few words by reading all the foreign signs, eavesdropping on the locals and imitating radio announcements will do your brain a world of good.
2.      Use a map instead of your satnav. Though a GPS can be very handy when you’re utterly lost, reading a map and finding your own way in an unfamiliar area is a valuable mental exercise.
3.       Play table tennis. Table tennis improves your eye-hand coordination and your attention span while you are focusing on the ball. So if you come across a table tennis table during your holidays, challenge your loved ones to a game!
4.       Don’t avoid the maths. Every time you buy something in a shop or a restaurant, try to calculate or estimate how much you are going to have to pay. You can turn this into a game by encouraging the other members of your family to do the same and trying to be quicker and more accurate than them. If you are in a country with a foreign currency, you can introduce another element to it: converting the price to pounds!
5.       Break your routines. Your holidays will be much more exciting and memorable if you don’t run on auto-pilot. Tickle your brain by finding new ways to do things. Even using your other hand to comb your hair or brush your teeth will increase your general level of alertness.
      Play noughts and crosses in the sand. Even playing simple puzzles and games strengthen the connections between nerve cells in the brain.

Tuesday, 26 August 2014

Bubbles - a business idea

This morning, I didn’t just cycle through the Rijksmuseum; I cycled through a cloud of bubbles. There was a street musician, a girl with a camera and a small cue. But no child, parent, bathtub or other Obvious source for the bubbles.

Which set me thinking. Wouldn’t it be cool if you could blow bubbles with your mouth, and nothing but your mouth? If bubbles would come straight from your lips?

Here’s an idea for a cool gadget: a tiny pouch of BubbLipswhich fits in your cheek without being noticed from the outside. At one end, there's a valve that can release just one drop at a time.
You run your tongue over the pouch to release a drop of the glycerin, which mixes with your saliva as you distribute it over the inside of your lips. Part your lips a little, blow gently and off they go, shiny bubbles of delight!
I can see baby sitters enchanting kids with this trick, clubs where strapping lads are snogging wallflowers just to get at their bubbles, CEO's in boardrooms yawning bubbles when their advisors are chatting breeze again...
BubbLips™ would be a thick liquid containing glycerin, colouring and flavourings for the most magical bubbles.

Thursday, 21 August 2014

Debbie does Amsterdam

I've moved home 14 times, ten of which were in London.

I've had my share of difficult, argumentative and even nasty neighbours, some of whom were the reason for moving on. Other reasons included love, work and the availability of the place (I used to be a household guardian). But mostly the people next door. 

At first, it just adds to the immersion in British culture. Having someone retrieve rubbish from the communal bin to put it in front of your door makes you feel like you're in a Small Faces song. You know you should shrug it off when you've got your downstairs neighbour threatening to report you as an illegal immigrant unless you sign a petition against the Portobello Market. But after five years of harrassment, it doesn't really feel like a holiday anymore. That’s when you know it’s either time to move on, or go home. So when I was offered an exciting position at a recruitment agency in Amsterdam, I jumped at the opportunity.

This was almost a year ago, and I can confidently say it was the right decision. My only regret is not having had a chance to blog about the city and it's (hidden) treasures more. Not making any promises though!

Thursday, 26 June 2014

Cycling frog

Amsterdam, the old city centre. It´s sunny as I cycle home from work. A father overtakes me. The little girl on the back of his bike wears flowers in her hair and waves a twig at me.
“I’ve got a magic wand,” she says, “and I’m turning you into a frog!”
And just like that, she turns me into a frog – a cycling frog at that! 
“Croak!” I say.
“Kwak kwak,” her daddy chimes in.
Enthralled by her success, she aims the wand and magic spell at other passersby. A sloppy student, lovers overlooking the canals, an early drunk an even another child. Nobody croaks.
Unfazed, the flowerchild turns back to me and says: “You’re a princess now.”
And such is life, I guess. You can’t even count on who you are.

Thursday, 6 February 2014

Snapshots of Alma

Her first job was stacking shelves at ASDA.
She used to come home and tell us that we could save 25p if we bought a large pack of Tetleys at her branche instead of at Tesco’s.

When she started as a receptionist at Quorn, she became a vegetarian.
“It’s so much healthier not to eat meat,” she kept telling us. “And think of all the animals!”
She lost that job – and her appetite for veggie food – when she had a go at her manager over his ham sandwich.

Next, she became a copywriter for a bank. She had to write about loans and mortgages.
“The average working person in London has to save for 11 years for a sufficient mortgage deposit,” she wrote.
But she didn’t let this get her down, and after only five years, she bought her first home.

Nowadays, she works for a debt-collecting agency.

Oh Alma, whatever has become of you?

Saturday, 12 October 2013

Debbie Does Mallorca

What I miss most about Mallorca: the smells; the sounds; the roads; the texture and the views.

Freddie and I have just returned to London from a last-minute end-of-season trip to the largest of the Balearic Islands. If I had to limit myself to just one word, 'lush' would be it. Fortunately, Blogspot isn't Twitter!

Time for a confession: even after five years, I can't get used to the odours of rotting, sweating, smoking London. Much as I love the city, its smell of blocked drains and wet dogs drives me insane. No wonder then, that Mallorca's fragrance is my favourite feature of the island. You'll be able to appreciate the sweet, rich and at times even musky smells of pines and ericaceous plants the moment you leave Palma.

We left Palma on a rented scooter, so for me, Mallorca sounds like the wind ripping at my helmet at 90km/hour. Either that, or a locust silence while gazing at the stars at night.

The great advantage of having your own transport (whether it's a car, moped or bicycle) is that you're not limited to staying near your hotel. That's probably the only way to keep your trip interesting if you tend to get bored with beaches and clubs after a while. I just hope you like squiggly mountain roads and narrow hairpin turns.

Make sure you grab a free map of the island from one of the car rentals. It's also useful to install an app on your phone with offline maps of the island before you leave off. I had the free TOURIAS Majorca app on my iPhone, which helped us find a way out of Palma (mission impossible) and pointed us in the direction of a couple of great sights that we probably would have missed otherwise. I was v. impressed that the GPS worked while I was offline.

If you're thinking of renting a scooter, Cooltra is your best bet. When you book your rental online in advance, it will only cost about €100 for a week and you can arrange for pick-up and drop-off at the airport. I wish I'd been that well-prepared!
Also, the insurance package of €25 is well worth it. When our front brake broke, they came and picked us up from Arta (which is pretty much as far as you can get from Palma) and drove us back to the scooter rental where we got a replacement bike. No hassle.

It took me a while to find an accurate description of the heat and humidity, but I think I've found one: Mallorca feels like the inside of a greenhouse (or perhaps it should be the other way around). Either way, my eczema cleared in less than a day. Sadly, it's starting to come back after just two days in London already.
Most of the island's surface is as coarse and prickly as the cacti, palm trees and aloe vera plants that grow there. The way a day's worth of stubble can be wildly attractive on a handsome man, the cracked land and rugged rocks somehow made me feel alive.

I hope you'll get a moped and have your own adventures. But when you do, here's a couple of hidden gems you don't want to miss.

  • Cuevas del Drach - just south of Porto Christo, these impressive stalagmite and stalactite formations are a playground for your imagination. They inspired us to think of all sorts of films, stories and architectural wonders that we would like to create one day.
  • The Salines of Es Trenc - apparently these saltworks attract  flamingos during evaporation season (we didn't see any though).
  • The lighthouse at the top of Cap de Formentor - although most tourists seem to find the goats and cats that live up there more interesting.
  • Sa Calobra - this beach can only be reached by the most impressive road on the island. We're intending to come back to Mallorca just to do this road on a bicycle. Also, the dry bay at the end of the road, 'Cala de sa Calobra', is rather magical. 
  • X Bar - if you happen to make it to Cala Rajada one night, find X Bar near Cala Agulla and ask for one of Nellie's special cocktails. You won't regret it, she's an artist with liquor!

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

The wishing well

Once upon a time in a country far, far away, there was a magic wishing well on a green hill. Every time the princess passed the well, she took a gold coin from her purse and dropped it into the well. While the money travelled to the mystical depths, the princess whispered a wish.
From the dark shrubbery, two gleaming eyes watched the princess lean over the edge of the well. It was a greedy goblin who wanted to marry the princess so that he could rule over her father’s kingdom. Two times now, the goblin had proposed to the princess. The first time, he had offered her a set of silver handcuffs on a velvet cushion. The second time, he had appeared at her palace with golden handcuffs on a cushion of silk and down. Both times, the princess had turned him down gently. “Sorry,” she had said, “but I am not in love with you.”
The angry goblin had wagged his bony finger at her. “The third time,” he’d said, “I will make you an offer you cannot decline.”
From that moment onwards, the goblin started following the princess wherever she went. He followed her to charity dinners, to car shows and, eventually, to the wishing well. He hid in the thicket and watched her take a coin from her clutch.
“I wish that all stray dogs in the country will find a loving home,” the princess said. “I hope that their families will feed them and children will cuddle them, and all they have to do in return is protect their home.”
The following days, the goblin noticed less and less stray dogs in the streets and, soon, he read in the national newspaper that the number of burglaries had gone down drastically now that all homes were protected by dogs.
The second time the princess and the goblin passed the well, it hadn’t rained for weeks. The drought was threatening the livelihood of thousands of farmers. As the princess flipped a coin into the well, she asked for rain.
Before the princess reached her castle, rain started coming down in thick sheets. She saw all the farmers dance on the land, letting the rain soak their clothes and thanking the clouds for saving the crops.
“So the well really works,” the goblin said to himself. He spurred his horse to return to the wishing well, emptied his wallet into the well and wished for the princess to fall in love with him.
When he appeared at the court for a third time, the goblin offered the princess a set of rusty hand cuffs. “Majesty,” he said, “now that you have lost your heart to me, will you marry me?”
“Why, no,” she responded. “What makes you think my feelings have changed?”
“I paid the well to make you fall in love with me!”

“You silly thing,” the princess said. “Isn’t it obvious when you compare your wish to mine? The wishing well doesn’t understand selfish requests. It can only make good wishes come true.”

Monday, 16 September 2013

A 2013 guide to holiday snapshots

The best thing about coming home from a wonderful holiday is that you can show off your tan and your photos. With these basic tips, your snapshots are guaranteed to make the right impression.

1. Less is more
This one's especially important for those who share their holiday pics via social media while they're still abroad. Just because you're taking thousands of photos during your beach holidays, doesn’t mean your friends and family want to see them all! Make sure every photo you share is interesting and unique. If you took fifty very similar pictures of the swimming pool at the hotel, choose the best one and archive the others. Don’t waste the valuable time and attention span of your audience!

2. Choose the right platform to showcase your photos
If don't want to your holiday pictures to look like snapshots from someone else's life, avoid Instagram. But if it's not on Instagram, how will you share your pics with your followers?!Most people don’t appreciate it when you clog up their email box with big attachments. It’s better to share your photos through a website such as Adobe Revel, Picasa, Photobucket, Flickr or Facebook and send your friends the url of the album. The advantage of using Adobe Revel is that you can use some of the famous Photoshop software to edit your photos online for free.

3. Shoot interesting subjects (yourself)
By all means, aim your camera at things that capture your attention - especially if other tourists don't seem to notice them. If you're not a professional photographer, chances are your pictures of the Dubai Skyline or the Eiffel Tower won't be the most fascinating photographs your friends have ever seen. These landmarks will only become interesting for your friends and family if you combine them with something they care about: you. Going on a city trip means you've got a licence to take lots of selfies!

4. Always work on a copy The most important thing when it comes to editing is that you should always keep an unedited version of your original photo. You can use a web-based editing service or offline software to edit a copy of your photo.

5. Improve the compositions Most holiday snapshots can be improved by cropping them according to the rule of thirds. Imagine a noughts and crosses grid within your new frame and position the subject of the photo along one of the lines or on one the four intersection points. Your photos will become much more interesting this way.

6. Enhance dull colours
Experimenting with the brightness, contrast, colour intensity, levels, sharpness and focus of your photo can improve your snapshots immensely, even when the original looked fine to you. If only some areas of your photos are a bit too dark or too bright, look for the Dodge and Burn brushes to adjust those specific areas.

7. Have a crack at Vine
Just because you can't stick 6-second looping videos in an album doesn't mean they're not interesting to watch. In fact, my favourite snapshot of my trip to Barcelona earlier this year is a vine:

Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Get it on, bang the gong - Top 5 ways to wear a sarong!

Unless you've planned a trip to a sunny resort somewhere far, far away from London, you probably won't get much of a chance to show off the sarong skills I'm about to teach you. But if you do happen to be in the middle of packing your suitcase for a beach holiday, the single most important accessory is a sarong. 

Depending on your style, you can get a traditional batik sarong from Indonesia, a Tahitian pareo with bright flower patterns, an eye-catching kanga from Africa or an extra large scarf with a tie-dye or animal print. Here’s how to fold, wrap and tie this versatile garment so that you’ll look stylish during your beach holidays!
Beach skirt
The nonchalant beach wrap is probably the most famous way to wear a pareo. An elegant way to achieve this look is to fold the fabric into a triangle, place it around your waist and tie the long ends together above one hip. If you prefer an ankle length straight skirt, don’t fold the pareo before you wrap it around your body.

Maxi dress
You can easily turn your sarong into a sexy maxi dress. Tie two adjacent corners of the sarong behind your neck so that it drapes in front of you like a cowl neck. Grasp the edges of the sarong at hip height behind your back, forming two small bunches of fabric. Pull them to one side and double-knot the bunches so that the sarong is wrapped tightly around your hips.

Wrap Dress
This flattering knee-length dress looks good on every woman. To create a wrap dress, hold the sarong behind your back horizontally like a towel. Bring the left top corner in front of your body and hang it over your right shoulder. Wrap the right side of the sarong underneath your bust, around your back and to the right shoulder, where you tie it to the other end.

Bandeau or bandeau dress
If you fold the sarong into a wide strip, you can wrap it around your chest and tie it behind your back. If you prefer a bandeau dress, extend your pareo behind your back and tie the edges together against the bust so that the extra fabric cascades down.

Halter dress

This sophisticated cocktail dress is surprisingly simple to create. Start with extending the pareo behind your back just below you shoulder blades. Bring the top corners forward below your arms, cross the ends over your chest and tie them behind your neck. 

The options are endless. Just keep playing around until you've found a method that hides your weaknesses while emphasizing your best bits.

Saturday, 13 July 2013

6 Cheap, Simple & Quick Beauty Tips for the Heat

Looking splendid in the sweltering heat – and in all your summer snapshots! – is easy this year. You don’t have to spend valuable beach time in front of the mirror and it doesn’t have to cost a fortune either. Just follow these simple make-up, hair and fashion tips and let the sun be your limelight!

1. Make-up:  less is more
The best way to avoid a make-up meltdown is to let your skin breathe. Steer clear of heavy foundation, concealer and powder. All you need is a lightweight moisturizer that will block UV rays and absorb oil. If you’re feeling a bit pale without make-up, you can use tinted sunscreen (the only one that doesn't give me spots is Vichy 50+ Capital Soleil Face Cream) or self-tanning moisturizer to give your skin a sun-kissed glow. Keep your lips natural or use a shiny gloss or balm with UV-filter.

2. Sunglasses: the wow-factor
Buy yourself a glamorous pair of sunglasses that really suit your face. This accessory should both make you look fabulous and protect your eyes by absorbing all UV rays and most HEV rays. If you have a heart-shaped or an oval face (like me), all frames will look good on you except for oversized ones such as aviator shades. Sunglasses with sculpted angles look best on people with round faces. Make sure the frame is at least the same width as your face. Oval and cat-eye frames tend to work best for people with an angular jaw (not me!) because the rounded edges soften the angular planes of your face. Personally, I swear by my Adidas Evil Eye glasses - great for skiing as well. 

3.  Eyes: go waterproof
Keep your eyes simple – after all, you will be wearing sunglasses most of the time! If you really want to use eye shadow, go for a neutral, soft shimmery product. Dark, smoky eyes can look extremely harsh in the summer and are more likely to smudge. To enhance your natural glow, you only need to emphasize your lashes. Waterproof mascara is a must at the beach, but it can dry out your lashes. Look for a moisturizing, stay-put mascara to prevent brittle lashes.

4.  Skin: wear self-tanning lotion and
The most important summer skincare product is sunscreen. The higher the SPF, the better. Honestly, you don’t want your skin to age prematurely as the result of too much exposure to the sun. It’s much safer to get a tan from a bottle! Choose a quick-drying, streak-free tanning-lotion. Exfoliate your body and us a sheer moisturizer on dry areas such as your ankles, wrists, knees and elbows before you apply the tanning lotion.

5. Let your hair down, literally
The key to good summer hair is: don't try too hard. Wet it every morning, apply some leave-in conditioner and let it air-dry. Blow-driers, curling irons, straighteners and other styling products will only damage your sun-stressed hair. You’re ready to leave the house in a lot less time than usual and you’ll look amazing. If your hair is dyed blonde or has artificial highlights, you should protect it against and chlorine in swimming pools with a swimming cap (you don't have to go down the rubbery, sporty route, there are plenty of cute vintage options as well!) and against sunlight with a pretty hat.

6. Clothes: trust your instinct

Find a flattering bikini or swimming costume. If you are a bit self-conscious about your stomach, go for a one-piece swimsuit with tummy-control. Those who think they have short legs should avoid hipster bottoms and skirted bikinis. Instead, go for high-cut thighs. This cut will make your legs look longer. Don’t worry if this look draws attention to your hindquarters: the curvier your hips are, the smaller your waist looks.It’s also worth investing in a sarong or pareo, as it can easily be transformed into an elegant beach dress, nonchalant skirt or sexy top. For different ways to wrap, fold and knot your sarong or pareo, watch this space!

Monday, 24 June 2013

Mine, mine, mine: Cultural evolution and intellectual ownership

Ever since the early crowds have welcomed the Internet into their lives (or the other way around – I'm not sure which is host and which is guest), people have been saying that intellectual ownership needs to change.

Recently, I've noticed ownership is already changing. The driving force is not legal redefinition, but economical gain.

Physical vs. Intellectual Ownership
Personally, I've always found the concept of intellectual ownership rather puzzling. The 'intellectual' units that we're talking about aren't singular objects that can be owned the way I own my bicycle. Intellectual property can take many shapes – from tunes and catch-phrases to clothes fashions and production methods. What they have in common is that they exist through replication. Think about it: it's meaningless to establish who the intellectual owner is of something that's not worth repeating.

Cultural Evolution
Parallel to genes, Richard Dawkins calls these non-genetic cultural units of replication “memes”, and of course they're subject to variation and selection as well as replication.
As possible roots for the word 'meme', Dawkins refers to
  • the Ancient Greek 'Mimeme' (from μιμέομαι, “to imitate”, “to mimic” or “to follow another's example”)
  • the English 'memory' and
  • the French word même (“same” or “alike”).
But how do we identify that two utterances are the same meme – or, in other words, the same intellectual property?

It's not just the variation bit that I'm talking about, although apparently a misquote such as “Do you feel lucky, punk?” still counts as Dirty Harry. Dawkins emphasizes that when a meme is transmitted from one brain to another, that doesn't mean that both brains show the exact same neural configuration. Two nightingales 'have' the same meme when they sing the same melody, even if the neural configurations that make them sing that melody are vastly different.

What is “the same” or “alike” in two copies of one meme? How can they be identified? What is the magical connection between a printed sentence and the spoken version of it? A phrase and its translation?

Legal Context
The legal experts don't worry about this though. How they do it, I don't know, but they've managed to identify plenty of intellectual thieves.

The different way of existence (replication rather than durability) makes ownership of memes quite difficult. When I buy a computer game, it's not the same as when I buy a can of tomato soup. Yes, I own the disc, but somehow, I don't own the game. Actually, perhaps it is the same as when I buy a can of tomato soup. I can buy the soup, but that doesn't mean the recipe becomes mine.

Digital Hoarding
Despite the fact that most of us aren't the legal owners of songs, movies, books and games, we act and speak as though we are. “I have the latest album of Radiohead on my laptop,” and “I'll give you Call of Duty tomorrow.”
In the golden days of illegal torrents, a lot of people around me became digital hoarders – they collected more music on their computers than they could listen to if they would do nothing else for the rest of their lives; more terabytes worth of films than their entire music collection and more games and software than they'll ever use. Why would they, if the files weren't even theirs? It's hard to explain, but in a way, there is a stronger sense of possession when we steal files than when we pay for them.

Pack-rat Traps
Software corporations know this, and they're changing the way we interact with them because of it.
In an attempt to make Photoshop and Illustrator theft-proof, Adobe's new range is Creative Cloud (CC) rather than Creative Suite (CS). You don't pay a fortune in order to own your own copy of the software. Instead, you pay a monthly subscription fee of fifty dollars to be allowed to use the software.
We don't buy games for the new XBox, we pay for the right to play them once.

A lot of people are upset about these changes. But just like the crowds have learned to pay for songs in the iTunes store or on Spotify rather than download them with torrents, the crowds will get used to it.

The End of Self-Storage
Whether we're the legal owners or not, we tend to store writings, songs, films and images at home or at work. When I was eighteen, I still went as far as printing my favourite email conversations so that I could keep them in a folder under my bed. I was afraid that Hotmail might go bust or lose my letters.

Like most other people, I no longer feel the need to download emails etc. onto my own hard drive. I trust that Gmail and Hotmail will be there as long as I need access to my old emails. In fact, they are a lot better at looking after my files than I am myself.
  1. I don't have access anymore to the files I saved on old floppy discs – even if they hadn't corrupted over time and even if I had a floppy drive, I wouldn't have WordPerfect to read the files.
  2. I can't watch films that I recorded on videotapes anymore.
  3. Neither my previous nor my current computer has a CD/DVD-drive, so I don't even have access to any of the CD-R backups I made.
  4. My dad has had to re-install Windows on his desktop computer several times and wiped everything I had saved on there.
  5. I still have access to everything I ever saved in my Gmail, Facebook and Dropbox.

When I won an iPad in a competition, I figured it would be great for working on my novel in transit, so I looked for a word-processing app. This is when I first noticed that intellectual ownership doesn't just need to change, but is actually changing. OpenOffice, I discovered, isn't available for iOS, and there were no free equivalents that lived up to my needs. All free apps, including Google docs, require you to be online in order to amend your files. Which means that I wouldn't be able to work on my novel without a WiFi connection. Not great, considering the fact that I was hoping to write on the underground. In the end, I had to dish out twenty quid for Quickoffice Pro, because it was one of the very few apps allowing me to store files on my iPad rather than online. Even Apple's Pages only works if you sign up for iCloud.

We are losing the need to have a physical connection with our intellectual property (or loot). More and more, having access to it with any device is replacing having it on one specific device.

The mystery of identity of memes is now combined with their loss of anchoring in our material lives. A significant shift indeed. 

Tuesday, 18 June 2013

6 Remedies for Mosquito Bites that Really Work

Eating lots of garlic, burning citronella incense, rubbing spit on the itchy area or carving a cross into it with your thumb nail… we all know remedies against bug bites that don’t work. But what do you need to know if you don’t want to let mosquito bites spoil your beach holidays?

1) Wash your feet several times a day – Did you ever wonder why mosquitoes mostly attack ankles and lower legs? It’s because our sweat is derived from our blood, and blood-thirsty insects have learned to find us by picking up the scent of carbon dioxide and octenol - in other words, they like body odour. Especially the smell of human feet. If you wash your feet several times a day, you will make it more difficult for the insects to find you.

2) Wear insect repellent – The only thing you can do to make mosquitoes dislike your smell is wearing DEET, Icaridin or Picaridin. Citronella and Lemon Eucalyptus Oil are safe, natural alternatives to DEET, but they are less effective. All scientific studies to date have found that dietary changes don’t have any influence on whether you are bitten or not, so don’t worry about garlic, vitamin B or thiamine supplements. Apply the insect repellent after your sunscreen.

3) Whatever you do, avoid blue – Wear khaki and earth tones. Much as this might disagree with your fashion sense, it’s best to opt for neutral colours as bright and dark colours attract insects.

4) Isn't there an app for that? – Of course there is. I haven't tried the iPhone app yet because the mosquito season doesn't seem to have kicked off yet in London - touch wood - but I'll probably just check the iTunes store and download the best-rated free one when I need one. It actually seems the Android app Mosquito Repellent by Atticapp gets more good reviews than any googleble iPhone app, so I might get Freddie to install one instead. 

5) Medication – Some people have a stronger reaction to mosquito bites than others. If you suffer from severe reactions, hydrocortisone cream can help reduce the itching, swelling and redness. Topical antihistamines and anesthetics such as Ibuprofen gel or Xylocaine gel are ideal for quick temporary relief.

6) Home remedies to relieve the itch – If you don’t have the aforementioned medication at hand, you can always try one of the many home remedies to relieve the itch. Effective tricks include wetting the skin and rubbing baking soda, salt or a crushed aspirin tablet on the itchy lump. Other people apply dry soap, toothpaste, vinegar, honey, tea tree oil, lemon juice, raw potato, onion, nail varnish, crushed basil, Vicks VapoRub or a hot tea bag to the affected area. These home remedies work best when the bite is fresh and you usually have to repeat them more often. Whatever you do, don’t scratch – scratching will make the allergic reaction worse and if you damage your skin, you run the risk of an infection.